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November 27, 2007
Oh, I don't think you could sell them, she said as I exclaimed over the contents of the package she had just handed me for the Christmas fair. They've all been used.

Well, used is one word for it. Gorgeous might be a better one: inside the bag were two or three dozen vintage aprons. Half aprons and bib aprons, gingham and chintz and terrycloth, plaid and striped and flowered, in every color a person could name. Some of them were embroidered in cross-stitch. Some had fanciful shaped pockets. Some sported appliqued animals. A few were thin with wear and tea-colored with age, but most of them seemed hardly to have been worn at all. Here and there was a little tear, a tiny stain, but almost all of them were in terrific shape.

Oh, my, said Nancy as we pulled one apron after another from the bag and held it up to admire. We are roughly the same age. We both remember ladies in those half aprons, our mothers and grandmothers and their friends, ladies in church kitchens and school cafeterias. However plain their clothing might have been, their aprons were riotous: butterflies in the kitchen, a spot of whimsy in lives that might have been a little short on whimsy.

An apron was one of the first things you made as you learned to sew -- a small project, with an easy end in sight, one that would not waste much fabric if you ran into trouble you couldn't get out of. The Christmas fair was festooned with them: garlands of bright half aprons on a clothesline strung between two hat racks behind the "fancy table," a name that drew a child irresistibly to its wares -- its hand-knitted mittens and caps, its afghans, its crocheted tissue paper holders, its dolls in crocheted dresses, its brown sock monkeys. Each lady at the fancy table wore one of the aprons, instinctively grasping what the advertising industry would later call "product placement."

I can give these a soak and freshen them up a little, Nancy said. Then I'll bring them back and maybe somebody can iron them. That somebody will be me, if I can find the time: already I can see the point of my iron smoothing the corners of a bright pocket, the steam rising from the ironing board, the long apron strings, flat and perfect. Already I can smell the intoxicating aroma of hot laundry starch.

Oh, it's a small thing, an old apron. But I remember every one of my mother's and every one of my grandmother's, every color and every print, remember the way they protected their laps, their blouses, brightened their work. They would remove them when company came, untying the strings as they walked to answer the door. Those bright colors, those cowboys and Scotty dogs, those plaid pockets -- they were not really for company. They were just for us.
St. Luke's Christmas Fair is this Saturday, December 1st, 9-4. Handmade wreaths, tree ornaments, afghans, mittens, shawls and scarves, handmade bird feeders, antiques, jewelry, ceramic art, pottery bowls, uncommon crochet and wonderful baked goods and soups, for consumption and sale. And more. The famous Q will be the fair's used book seller. St. Luke's is at the corner of Rte 27 and Oak Avenue in Metuchen, NJ. For directions, call
Also this Saturday, December 1st, the Brotherhood of St. Gregory invites the public to a Quiet Day with Barbara Crafton at St. John's, South Salem, NY. Deacon J will be on the scene! To find out more about this interesting order for men (there is a corresponding order of sisters), visit The church address is 82 Spring Street, South Salem NY 10590. Telephone is 914-763-8273. Reservations requested.
This Thursday, November 29, 4-6: Barbara Crafton will read and sign her newest book, Mary and Her Miracle: The Christmas Story Retold, at the Catalyst Cafe and Bookstore, at the Episcopal Church Center, 815 Second Avenue in New York City.
Copyright © 2022 Barbara Crafton
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